Headaches are a very common condition that most people will experience many times during their lives. The main symptom of a headache is a pain in your head or face. This can be throbbing, constant, sharp or dull. Up to 75% of adults worldwide have had a headache in the past year.Headaches have a tendency to run in families, especially migraines.
There are more than 150 types of headaches. They fall into two main categories: primary and secondary headaches.
▪︎ Primary headaches
Primary headaches are those that aren’t due to another medical condition. The category includes:
• Cluster headaches.
• New daily persistent headaches (NDPH).
• Tension headaches.
▪︎ Secondary headaches
Secondary headaches are related to another medical condition, such as:
• Disease of blood vessels in the brain.
• Head injury.
• High blood pressure (hypertension).
• Medication overuse.
• Sinus congestion.
Headache symptoms vary, depending on the type of headache you have.
▪︎ Tension headaches
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. Tension headache pain tends to be:
• Consistent without throbbing.
• Mild to moderate.
• On both sides of the head (bilateral).
• Responsive to over-the-counter treatment.
• Worse during routine activities (such as bending over or walking upstairs).
Migraines are the second most common type of primary headaches. Symptoms of migraines include:
• Moderate to severe pain.
• Nausea or vomiting.
• Pounding or throbbing pain.
• Pain that lasts four hours to three days.
• Sensitivity to light, noise or odors.
• Stomach upset or abdominal pain.
▪︎ Cluster headaches
Cluster headaches are the most severe type of primary headache. Cluster headaches come in a group or cluster, usually in the spring or fall. They occur one to eight times per day during a cluster period, which may last two weeks to three months. The headaches may disappear completely (go into remission) for months or years, only to recur later. The pain of a cluster headache is:
• Intense with a burning or stabbing sensation.
• Located behind one of your eyes or in the eye region, without changing sides.
• Throbbing or constant.
▪︎ New daily persistent headaches
New daily persistent headaches (NDPH) come on suddenly and last for more than three months. They typically occur in people who weren’t having frequent headaches before. The pain of NDPH is:
• Constant and persistent without easing up.
• Located on both sides of the head.
• Not responsive to medications.
▪︎ Sinus headaches
Sinus headaches are the result of a sinus infection, which causes congestion and inflammation in the sinuses (open passageways behind the cheeks and forehead). People, and even healthcare providers, often mistake migraines for sinus headaches. Symptoms of sinus headaches include:
• Bad taste in mouth.
• Deep, constant pain in your cheekbones and forehead.
• Facial swelling.
• Feeling of fullness in ears.
• Pain that gets worse with sudden head movement or straining.
• Mucus discharge (snot).
▪︎ Posttraumatic Headaches
Posttraumatic stress headaches usually start 2-3 days after a head injury. You’ll feel:
• A dull ache that gets worse from time to time
• Trouble concentrating
• Memory problems
• Tiring quickly
This type may last for a few months.
▪︎ Medication overuse headaches
Medication overuse headaches (MOH) or rebound headaches affect up to 5% of people. They happen when you frequently take pain relievers for your pain. Eventually, this practice can actually increase your number of headaches. Signs of MOH include:
• Headaches becoming more frequent.
• More days with headaches than without.
• Pain that’s worse in the morning.
▪︎ Thunderclap headache
These are sudden, severe headaches that people often describe as the “worst headache of my life.” They reach maximum intensity in under 1 minute and last longer than 5 minutes.
A thunderclap headache is a secondary headache that can indicate a life-threatening condition, such as:
• an aneurysm
• reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome
• pituitary apoplexy
• bleeding in the brain
• a blood clot in the brain
People who experience these sudden, severe headaches should receive immediate medical care.
▪︎ Headaches in children
Most kids have had a headache by the time they get to high school. For about 20% of them, tension headaches and migraines are a reoccurring problem. Similar to adults, triggers in children include:
• Certain foods that trigger headaches for the individual.
• Changes in sleep.
• Environmental factors.
The pain you feel during a headache comes from a mix of signals between your brain, blood vessels, and nearby nerves. Specific nerves in your blood vessels and head muscles switch on and send pain signals to your brain. But it isn’t clear how these signals get turned on in the first place.
Common causes of headaches include:
This can include infections, colds, and fevers. These are also common with conditions like sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses), a throat infection, or an ear infection.
Emotional stress and depression as well as alcohol use, skipping meals, changes in sleep patterns, and taking too much medication.
• Your environment,
Itincludes secondhand tobacco smoke, strong smells from household chemicals or perfumes, allergens, and certain foods. Pollution, noise, lighting, and weather changes are other possible triggers.
Headaches, especially migraine, tend to run in families. Most children and teens (90%) who have migraines have other family members who get them.
A doctor can usually diagnose a type of headache after asking the person about:
• their symptoms
• the type of pain
• the timing and pattern of attacks
In some cases, the doctor may perform or request tests to rule out more serious causes of head pain. The tests may involve blood samples or imaging, such as a CT or MRI scan.
Treatment varies according to the cause. If headaches are being caused by an illness, then it’s likely that the it will go away once the underlying condition is treated. However, most headaches aren’t symptoms of serious medical conditions and can be successfully treated with over-the-counter medications, such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), or ibuprofen (Advil).If medications aren’t working, there are several other remedies that can help in treatment –
• Biofeedback is a relaxation technique that helps with pain management.
• Stress management classes can teach you how to cope with stress and how to relieve tension.
• Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of talk therapy that shows you how to recognize situations that make you feel stressed and anxious.
• Acupuncture is an alternative therapy that may reduce stress and tension by applying fine needles to specific areas of your body.
• Mild to moderate exercise can help increase the production of certain brain chemicals that make you feel happier and more relaxed.
• Cold or hot therapy involves applying a heating pad or ice pack to your head for 5 to 10 minutes multiple times a day.
• Taking a hot bath or shower can help relax tense muscles.
Ayurveda Perspective –
In Ayurveda, headaches are not considered a disease, but a symptom of the vitiation of one or more of the doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha, with the primary dosha being effected typically Vata.
Ayurveda makes mention of certain types –
• Ardhaavabheda (unilateral pain )
• Anantavaata (classical migraine)
• Suryavatra (morning headache)
According to Ayurveda, some causes includes:
• Consuming polluted food (i.e. GMO foods)
• Consuming oily and spicy food
• Emotions like stress, sadness, and anger
• Excessively consuming dry and salty food
• Excessive intake of pungent food
• Suppressing natural urges
Ayurveda prescribes herbs, yoga, and lifestyle therapies for treatment.
▪︎ Effective herbal formulations
• Brahmi ghritam
• Sarapgandha vati
• Triphala churna
• Anu thailam
• Brahmi thailam
• Shiroshuladi vajra ras
▪︎ Ayurvedic Therapies
▪︎ Yoga Postures
• Savasana (Corpse pose)
• Setu bandhasana (Bridge pose)
• Paschimottasana (Seated forward bend)
• Janusirasana (Single head to knee pose)
• Balasana (Childs Pose)
A healthy lifestyle and plenty of sleep can help prevent headaches. Some key steps a person can take to reduce their chances of experiencing a headache include:
• Avoiding diet-related food triggers. such as aged cheeses, wine, cashews, onions, chocolate, processed meats, dark beers, food additives, dairy, and wheat.
• Avoiding excess caffeine intake. Limiting caffeine to two to three cups per day (or none at all) can help.
• Getting enough sleep. Good headache prevention includes getting an amount of sleep each night that allows you to wake up feeling refreshed in the morning.
• Using mind-body practices for headache prevention. These techniques involve focusing the mind on the body, deep breathing, and imagining each tense muscle in the body relaxing.
• Considering manual therapies. Therapies including massage and chiropractic manipulations may help prevention in some people.
• Exercising regularly. Exercising at least three times a week for 30 minutes can help relieve stress and tension that may otherwise trigger this problem.
Typically, good health practices also are good headache prevention practices.
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